Maybe you’ve been feeling it too. Burning sensation in the ball of the foot, possibly some numbness, stinging in the toes, and other unpleasantness. I’ve had it in increasing levels for several years, and naturally the more I ride, the worse it becomes. This after numerous changes of shoes, at least a couple of different bikes, different seats, and so on. I saw a doctor for it, and (read more below) wasn’t impressed with the outcome, which had no chances of solving the problem.
Here’s what HAS helped
First, I went for a thorough bike-fitting with Craig, our thorough bike-fitter. In 3 hours of fine-tuning every aspect of geometry and measuring what improved and what didn’t, I found that the “hotfoot” sensation I’d been suffering was substantially lessened. I attribute this to improving my positioning on the bike, and the set of E-soles Craig fitted inside my cycling shoes.
With those adjustments alone, it seemed I could go twice as long before the devil awoke in my toes. But sadly he hadn’t been completely chased off.
So I sought more help from an expensive podiatrist who advertises how he works with a lot of sports organizations and athletes. He looked at an x-ray of my foot and said structurally, there weren’t any problems. He said that any treatment would essentially be a guess. I’m not kidding. Then he prescribed an expensive, custom-blended lotion made of literally 4 painkillers/muscle relaxers to be rubbed into the foot 4 times a day. Not only was stopping-life-to-goop-my-foot-every-few-hours not realistic, but I’m not aware of many physical problems being solved by repeated application of pain meds, alone. It didn’t seem to be a healthy approach to anything more than masking over the real problem. [Note, I tried the salve for a while and frankly didn't notice any effect at all. BioFreeze gel, on the other hand, seemed to give much more noticeable relief, and smells good, too.]
But where was I? Right: rambling.
Anyway, I should note for readers sitting on the edge of their chairs by now, that my particular hotfoot experience is/was somehow limited to the right foot, which happens to be slightly wider than my left. It’s also worth noting that the best relief from the problem comes from simply taking my shoes off and walking around in bare feet. Even five or ten minutes would give huge relief that might last for an hour or so back on the bike. Sherlock Holmes would have found these clues much more elementary than I did, which is why it took me so long to do what I did next.
Enjoying a couple cold brews (sequentially, not simultaneously, mind) while I wasted yet more hours tinkering with bike stuff, and mulling over those aforementioned clues, I had a moment of inspiration that perhaps I should actually measure the width of my feet with a tape measure. Gosh knows, just saying you wear “Size X” can mean virtually anything in terms of length, width, and so on. But a tape measure, like a watt meter, doesn’t lie!
Cutting to the exciting part of this saga, at widest part of the front ball of the right foot, I could cover 4.5 inches by standing on that tape. The left one (which we’ll simply call the “favorite foot”) goes about a quarter inch slimmer, but that’s not important. I just thought you might want to know. Anyway, I measured my cycling shoes at the same location. Guess what? Only 4.0 inches.
Now I’m no rocket surgeon, but riding in shoes whose outside dimension was a half inch narrower than the foot they were meant to contain — seems like a suitable recipe for searing pain.
So I googled “wide sized cycling shoes” and, what do you know, they exist! Google also informed me that my friendly Zappos (they rule!) online shoe source had some choices in my size. Just 24 hours later, “Brown” (they rule, too!) delivered me a pair of Sidi’s in size 12 E, and I quickly measured them with my trusty tape. The answer I got was exactly what I was hoping for, these babies were a full half inch wider than the standard/medium size I’d been buying and wearing for the past God-knows-how-many years! They weren’t bad looking shoes, either.
Notwithstanding that these high-end, north of $200 Sidi’s were impressive shoes, naturally they came with embarrasingly shabby insoles which compared only slightly favorably against the box in which the shoes were packaged. I plucked these out without further thought, and inserted in their place the E-soles I’d previously been fitted me with, and slipped my feet in.
It was like an entirely new world. Imagine, shoes that fit!
This weekend I put some miles in them to confirm first positive perceptions. I can’t say yet that El Diablo has been absolutely ex-communicated from my right piedra, but it’s definitely been a step in the right direction. One thing that I suspect will make it a challenge, is that I suspect I’ve accumulated a little long term wear-and-tear on that metatarsil nerve that isn’t going to simply go away overnight. As the podiatrist said, at this point we’re just going to be guessing. Anyway, I’ve got a couple of shop rides this week, then a couple of really long ones next weekend at TOMRV, so by next week I think I’ll have a sense as to how much these properly-sized shoes will be part of the solution.
Will let you know how it works out, and encourage you to keep that tape measure handy if you find yourself dancing with the “hotfoot.”